A £76 million aircraft support contract, supporting more than 170 jobs, will maximise the availability and capability of the UK’s F-35 Lightning stealth jets, ensuring they are ready for combat operations around the world.
Signed by Lockheed Martin
and the F-35 Joint Program Office, the Lightning Air system National Capability Enterprise (LANCE) contract will provide additional expertise on aircraft maintenance, bespoke UK training courses for pilots, ground crew and engineers, and logistical and technical support for the fleet.
Giving the UK more freedom to operate its fleet of F-35s, it will also increase the number of flying hours available, alongside delivering important mission planning, training and maintenance capabilities.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “The Lightning Force forms a key part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group and plays a central role in protecting our interests at home and abroad. This investment will help ensure that this world-class fleet, and their crew, are ready to deploy wherever and whenever required.
Based at RAF Marham, home of the UK Lightning Force, the investment reflects the increasing size of the UK’s F-35 fleet and will create and secure 172 jobs mainly at the Norfolk base.
The contract will provide support for 25 months, with an option for a further three months. The majority of the work will be carried out by sub-contractor BAE Systems Air
Air Commodore David Arthurton, Combat Air Force Commander, said: “I welcome the opportunity LANCE provides to build upon the Lightning Force Element’s already close relationship with our industry partners. The new contract will deliver an enhanced level of performance while also providing welcome stability to all involved with the programme.”
“Furthermore, it will underpin our participation in the United Kingdom’s inaugural Carrier Strike deployment later this year, and provide an excellent foundation for future land and maritime operations as Lightning matures towards Full Operating Capability.”
The support provided by the contract will be crucial in ensuring the fleet is ready and prepared when they sail with HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group ‘21 deployment.
Vice-Admiral Rick Thompson, DE&S director general air, said: “I am delighted that we have secured LANCE for the UK’s Lightning Force. This is a critical support contract that shows a significant maturity in the platform’s capability.”
Edward Sheldon, BAE Systems Air head of UK F-35 Sustainment and RAF Marham site lead, said:
“As part of Lightning Team UK, our priority is to ensure our support solution at RAF Marham remains world-class to enable the deployment of UK jets whenever and wherever they are needed.
“The collaboration between Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and industry is critical in achieving this and through the next phase of support at RAF Marham, we are able to strengthen our UK sovereign capabilities by enhancing the services we provide.
“Through this continued investment and by working together, we can ensure the F-35 Lightning is available for the UK’s carrier strike operations and is ready to support allied operations anywhere in the world.”
The UK currently has 21 fifth-generation F-35s, having received three new jets on 30 November 2020.